Over the last year, we have experienced a reckoning that challenges our systems, structures, organizations, communities and ourselves. And while past crises have brought people together, we find ourselves deeply polarized and divided, rather than unified around common purpose. We seem to have lost the ability to connect with and trust each other at a time when there is an urgent need to have productive conversations and collaboratively address the challenges we face. From the global pandemic to climate change, from racial injustice to widening economic inequities, the challenges of today are too profound and too complex to be overcome by any one individual. What does it take to lead collectively? What are the mindsets, capacities, conditions, self-realizations and shared responsibilities we need to cultivate as collective leaders?
How might we come together across differences to learn, support and hold one another accountable as we practice and stretch how we put our values into action in this polarized moment? Throughout history, we have been in and overcome by dark moments. The Aspen Institute was founded following the devastation of World War II, with the core belief that for the engine of human progress to yield a better society, leaders need to be more self-aware, more self-correcting, and more humane. Across the globe, this moment requires us – as purpose-driven, values-based leaders – to do the hard work, the real work, of coming together across differences. We have done this before: what does it take to do it now?